August 29, 2006

Larry Turner, associate dean for Extension in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, dedicated his life to agriculture from his roots on an Indiana farm until his death Sunday morning.

As leader of the state’s 375-agent Cooperative Extension Service, Turner traveled across the state and beyond in his efforts to improve the lives of Kentuckians. He was on the job early Sunday morning heading to an Extension administrators’ conference in Puerto Rico when he perished in a plane crash.

He was known as a strong believer of UK Cooperative Extension’s ability to improve people’s lives and was an enthusiastic supporter of grassroots Extension programs including agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences and community and economic development. He often said Extension could be described in three words, “people, programs and partnerships.”

“We will remember Dr. Turner as a modest and easygoing man, with a quiet self-confidence and a powerful sense of purpose that made him an innovative and aggressive leader,” said Scott Smith, Dean of the UK College of Agriculture. “In only a few years, he had a tremendous impact on Kentucky Cooperative Extension. His professional legacy will be an extension system and a college that is stronger than ever and poised for the decades ahead.”

Turner joined UK in 1978 as an Extension agricultural engineer and faculty member in energy management. In 1999 he was promoted to chair of the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. In January, 2002 he became Associate Dean.

Raised on an Indiana farm, Turner, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering from Purdue University. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from UK in 1984.

In addition to his Extension and applied research activities, Turner taught courses in the dynamics of biological systems and in design of ventilation and environmental control. 

He led multistate, multidisciplinary efforts in development of a swine growth computer model now used in four states. Turner's Extension program focused on cattle-forage systems such as geotextile pads, fencing, water supply and paddock layout, as well as cooling systems for dairy and swine. As a visiting scientist at Silsoe Research Institute in Great Britain, he conducted research on air quality effects on swine.

Under Turner's leadership, the biosystems and agricultural engineering department increased external research and Extension grants from an annual level of $250,000 in 1999 to more than $4 million at the time he became associate dean.

As associate dean, he spearheaded a statewide streamlining and enhancement effort called “Re-envisioning Extension,” and led the successful effort to develop the County Enhancement Initiative which established a county agent career advancement track.
Turner believed in the mission of Extension and its role in “taking the university to the people.” He also was dedicated to making sure Extension was a diverse organization, serving as a member of the National Extension Diversity Task Force.

Harold Benson, Director of Land Grant Programs at Kentucky State University, described Turner as a giant among men. The two worked together as leaders of their respective university’s Extension programs.

“I will hold tight to the memories I have of him,” Benson said. “He was able to bridge university to university and program to program in a gentle but effective way. The university is better for Larry walking their way. He shall be missed. On behalf of Kentucky State University and myself, I say thank you, Larry, and for all the people he has helped serve, I say thank you. Our thoughts go out to his family.”

Turner’s family includes his wife of nearly 30 years, Lois, and children Molly, Amy and Clay. The family has asked that any gifts and contributions be directed to the Larry W. Turner Scholarship Fund through the College of Agriculture Office of Advancement, Room N212, Agricultural Science Center North, Lexington, KY 40546-0091.


Laura Skillman, 270-365-7541, ext. 278, Haven Miller, 859-257-4736 ext. 272